This year’s “Bell Let’s Talk” campaign flooded our social outlets, raising money and awareness for mental health. Although the campaign was a success, too often we see these kinds of projects come to our attention for a short period of time, only to leave our minds in their disappearance. In order to continue the conversation on mental health, I got together with my friend, Elizabeth*, to discuss her personal experience with a university health services counsellor.
Thanks for agreeing to open up this conversation with me! What made you reach out to your university counselling service three months ago?
I had spoken to a friend who had gone through similar things as myself and he had mentioned that he visited a counsellor and that it was really helpful. I feel like I had exercised all other options, so I thought, why not try it?
What were some of the things that you were going through?
Mainly anxiety. I hadn’t been feeling like myself and even though I had always struggled with anxiety, it had never been to the extent that it was during that point in time. I kind of figured that what I was going through wasn’t really normal for me, so I decided that maybe I should talk to someone about it.
And were you nervous when you decided to make an appointment?
Yeah, definitely nervous, because it was not something that I had done before. It was never something that I could previously have seen myself doing; it was totally out of my comfort zone and a totally new experience. I was nervous to reach out and ask for help.
Do you think there’s still a stigma surrounding mental health? If so, did that have anything to do with you being nervous?
There’s absolutely still a stigma around it, and people have opinions about it, and you don’t know what people are going to say or think about you if you’re someone who needs help. That definitely did play a factor. But I’ve only found support in my decision, from my friends, my family, and my school community.
Are campaigns like “Bell Let’s Talk” helping destroy the stigma in any way?
I’d say so. This year it was amazing to see how many people were participating and standing up for mental health. People are much more aware of it. Now that I’m dealing with it, and people I know are dealing with it, I think campaigns like that resonate with me a lot more.
So being open about mental health issues is important, then?
Absolutely, if you’re comfortable doing so. That’s what was so great about the “Bell Let’s Talk” campaign; it created a space for people to talk about their own struggles and to support one another. One girl I know was using the hashtag in a tweet where she was also opening up about her own battle with depression and an eating disorder. It’s good that people are doing that. Why shouldn’t we be able to talk openly about something that affects so many of us? It shouldn’t be embarrassing.
You’re right, and I think a lot of people still get flak for voicing their personal struggles on the internet, but by personalizing our experiences with mental health online, we’re creating a really fantastic community for support.
I agree, and it’s an important community to have.
So, what have been some benefits of visiting a counsellor?
It’s nice having someone to talk to. Obviously you have friends and family, but for me, it’s nice to have someone outside of that circle, who doesn’t know me in any previous context. My counsellor asks me things that other people wouldn’t normally ask me; he tries to get to the root of the things that I’m struggling with, and he makes me look at personal issues from multiple angles, so I can get an idea of why I feel the way I do. For me, it’s been amazing to walk away from each session with a set of tools that are specific to my needs.
Who would you recommend see a counsellor?
Anyone who wants to! We all have our own set of issues and things going on in our lives. You may not think that you’re the type of person who needs to see someone, or who wants to. I never thought I’d want or need to seek help from a professional. It’s so beneficial for me, and I’m sure anyone could find benefits in their own individual way.
So overall, reaching out to a counsellor has been a positive experience for you?
It’s going really well! Even if you’re just going once in a while, or even if you just go once in your life, I think it’s good. It’s so accessible to students and I know a lot of university students are under an immense amount of pressure, which can easily lead to a decline in mental health; anything that makes school or personal life more manageable is something I think people should take advantage of.
*name has been changed.
Click here to go to “Bell Let’s Talk”